On 23 June 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) would downgrade the detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners, in light of the continued incarceration of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The resultant measures imposed on Palestinian prisoners amount to a policy of collective punishment.
Against these measures, on 27 September Palestinian prisoners launched a campaign of civil disobedience including a continuous hunger strike, which has now entered its 12th day. They demand an end to a range of IPS’ practices including: isolation for ‘security reasons’; restrictions on family visits; imposition of fines; violent cell raids; individual strip searches; and the shackling of prisoners’ hands and legs as they are taken to and from family visits. The prisoners also demand the reinstatement of their access to university education, newspapers and books, all of which have been restricted by the IPS in recent months.
Al-Haq, together with other members of the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations (PCHRO), submitted an open letter to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe expressing their concern at the collective punishment of Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons.
Prisoner in focus: ‘Ala’ Qadous
On 3 October, ‘Ala’ Muhammad ‘Ali Qadous, 24 years old, from Burin (Nablus Governorate), was released from Megiddo prison after completing his sentence. ‘Ala’ had been put into isolation for participating in the prisoners’ on-going hunger strike. He was held a day longer then his official release date after the IPS threatened to keep him imprisoned if he continued striking. This is his account of his arrest and detention (see Al-Haq Affidavit 6667/2011).
‘Ala’s arrest and detention
During the night of 4 March 2010, the Israeli occupying forces raided ‘Ala’s house. He was handcuffed and blindfolded by soldiers in front of his family and driven away in a military jeep. ‘Ala’ was taken to al-Jalama prison in northern Israel where he was held for four days in a one metre by two metre cell with no window.
‘Ala’ was then subjected to interrogation for eight hours every day for two weeks. His hands were shackled and tied to a chair throughout the interrogation.
After a further 43 days of questioning, ‘Ala’ was eventually transferred to Megiddo prison to join other Palestinian detainees. The following day he was seen by a doctor who filled out his file without examining him.
For the remainder of his detention, ‘Ala’ was kept in a room with nine others with one toilet and two windows. The rooms lacked adequate sanitation and fresh air. ‘Ala’ was only allowed out of the cell five days per week and for no longer than four hours each day.
‘Ala’ describes the visiting conditions as unjust. He was not allowed a visitor for the first four months of detention and after that only one 45-minute-long visit per month. Throughout the visits, physical interaction was prohibited between ‘Ala’ and his visitor, usually his mother, and they were separated by a glass screen.
On 27 September, ‘Ala’ joined the hunger strike to protest against the on-going violations of prisoners’ rights described above. On 2 October, the IPS moved the hunger strikers to other prisons as a means of pressuring them to stop the protest. ’Ala’ was also placed in isolation as punishment for participating in the hunger strike. He continued his strike until he was returned to his village.
According to Prisoners’ rights organisation, Addameer, there are over 5,300 political prisoners being held in Israeli detention, of which over 270 are administrative detainees, and 170 are children.
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